Bafana Bafana midfield star Themba Zwane said winning the People’s Choice prize at Saturday night’s SA Sports Awards made him feel appreciated, though admitted he and his teammates have bigger fish to fry given the national team’s dire situation in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The national team left on Sunday morning for Monrovia after an embarrassing home draw where they spurned a two-goal lead for a 2-2 result against 150th-ranked Liberia at Orlando Stadium on Friday evening. They need a win against the Lone Stars in hostile conditions on Tuesday (6pm SA time) to qualify for Ivory Coast 2023.
Zwane could not attend the awards at Sun City on Saturday night given he is part of the Bafana camp. The evergreen 33-year-old Mamelodi Sundowns creative fulcrum said he was honoured to receive the award, accompanied by R500,000 prize money, in the category voted by the public.
“It means a lot to me. It shows people care and show their love to me, and I really appreciate their love. I will continue doing my good job and try to entertain them as always.
“Obviously I was watching the awards. I just want to say thanks to everyone who voted for me,” he said moments before Bafana’s departure from OR Tambo International Airport.
Zwane congratulated the big winner of the night, Banyana Banyana goalkeeper Andile Dlamini, who walked away with the Sports Star of the Year prize at the 16th Annual SA Sports Awards.
In a Nations qualification campaign made considerably easier by Zimbabwe’s expulsion from Group K due to government interference in the sport in that country, Bafana need four points from their games against lowly Liberia to progress.
South Africa now have their backs against the wall against a clearly highly-motivated team who will be backed by a hostile crowd in the 22,000-seat Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium.
Zwane felt 67th-ranked Bafana’s supposed superior player quality should still see them through in Monrovia.
“We’re positive, we’re going for the win. We know we can push ourselves, play our good football and try to take our chances. We’re ready for the game.”
Bafana coach Hugo Broos, who angered the media initially by attempting to not attend Friday night’s post-match press conference, is likely to have his future in the job rest on Tuesday’s result.
South Africa appeared to be cruising in Orlando as Lyle Foster’s early brace (11th and 22nd minutes) stunned the Lone Stars, but Liberia fought back through strikes from Tonia Tisdell (68th) and Muhammad Sangare (91st).